Support Parcels and Phone Credit Support
for the 900 young men on Manus now for three years
For updates on the situation on Manus Island now please go to the Updates page.
The project “Manus Lives Matter – support for refugees and asylum seekers” is a compassionate response to the men detained on Manus Island due to Australia’s cruel border protection policies.
Conditions on Manus
are harsh, unhygienic and debilitating. Detainees are afraid to leave the camp even though it has been declared “open”. Movement within and outside the camp is still severely restricted and the men are treated like prisoners. From the small number who decided to move to the Transit Camp as a stepping stone to settlement in PNG some now wish to return to the camps as promises of medical, job or integration support have not been fulfilled, they unable to keep themselves and are in danger from locals, themselves needy. The UNHCR has said they are unsafe in PNG and the government is unable to support or protect them. Detention on Manus has been declared illegal by the PNG High Court and while the PNG government has said the camps will be closed Australia has declined to act and the future of the 900 refugees and asylum seekers is in limbo.
Responsibility for the management of the camps is outsourced to a private concern and the government pays approximately $400,000 per person per year for the men to be held offshore. The money does not filter down to those detained. The food is regularly contaminated and most men have lost a lot of body weight. Toilets are insufficient for the numbers, are not regularly cleaned and we have photos of raw sewage on the floors and in the drains outside. (They are not permitted to clean the toilets themselves.) Extreme heat, humidity and insects are problems. There is no privacy in severely overcrowded rooms, some of which are ex-army tents. Guards provoke and verbally abuse them with impunity. There are few incidences of violence from detainees and the men are generally peaceful and care of each other. A system of points which can be exchanged for cigarettes has produced a tiered system of haves and have nots as men compete for necessities and some become addicted to the sleeping tablets they are readily given daily. The detainees are not in good health either physically or mentally and medical support is limited.
The Beginnings of Manus Lives Matter
This project was set up by a small group from within the Faith Based Working Group of the Canberra Refugee Action Committee.
Our goals were twofold: First to respond to a critical need for moral and practical support to the young men on Manus. One young refugee asked for someone to respond to those among them who, inspite of the good efforts of many Australians are still very needy. He himself being well educated and with excellent English had been able, with others like him, to gain support through social media. There is already an excellent but obviously limited support system in place but with 900 men to cover it is impossible to meet all their basic needs.
Secondly, we wanted to create links between those our government has hidden away with numbers for names with those in our church communities who wanted to help but needed to know more. We aimed to move hearts and minds enabling people to respond to a basic call of humanity, to reach out in love to those in need.
This concrete action will provide comfort to a group of fellow human beings who are currently demonized, faceless and find it hard not to succumb to hopelessness. It will build relationship and educate the community about the situation of this hidden group of people.
How will the project work?
- A data base has been compiled with names, ID, phone number for communication support, and address of refugees and asylum seekers who need support and specific requests from each one.
- Groups or individuals who would like to be part of the project will be given names, advice re sending parcels and/ or communication support to specific individuals. These will send their own parcels or phone top-ups
- In Canberra those interested in preparing bulk and sending parcels will be invited to form a small group to talk about what they would like to do.
- It is hoped that support might be provided on a regular basis, for example once a month or once every two months. However one-off support is also welcome.
- The aim will be to work through the names until all have received support once.
- Supporters can track parcels through the internet and know when they have been delivered. There may also be feedback with photos or verbal messages of appreciation. Messages will be limited because we are targeting those who have not been able to find support to date because they do not have English.
- Supporters need to notify Sr Jane when they send any support so the data base can be kept up to date. Our contact on Manus will be in daily communication and will relay request and confirm receipts of support.
- A full support package for one person, based on specific requests from the individual might cost up to $250 including an amount of up to $100 for postage.
- Currently the most common requests are for T shirts, shorts or long pants, sports shoes, dried fruit, spicy treats, caps, sunglasses and an occasional request for things like a watch or trimmer. A Post Office Box BX4 is suggested as a good size to posting.
- Individuals or some groups may decide to give communication support only. In the form of phone credit. This allows them to communicate with their families and occasionally to get access to the internet. We encourage a $35 top-up package which allows for splitting the package and getting a little internet access.
- Financial support. Anyone who prefers to donate money will be able do so through a specified bank account. Donors will be sent the name of the recipient and receipts for any phone credit or parcels sent from their donation. We will not accept general donations but will accept to be a conduit between a donor and a specified recipient.
To register your interest in supporting a detainee and for advice and support about packages and communication support:
0409 773 572 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Or message Jane through either of the Facebook pages Sister Jane Seeks Asylum or Jane Irene Keogh.